By JIGGER J. JERUSALEM
CAMP Alagar yesterday expressed its support to the proposal of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. to extend the Mindanao martial law for another year, citing the “sustained rebellion in the region” as the reason.
In a statement Wednesday, Camp Alagar spokesperson Lt. Col. Mardy Hortillosa said the police in northern Mindanao under the leadership of Brig. Gen. Rafael Santiago Jr. “will support the call for extension of martial law since it helps the peace and order of the region.”
According to Hortillosa, “peace-loving and law-abiding” citizens in the region are “happy” with the martial law in Mindanao because it has not been marred by abuses.
“It helps us in the law enforcement side in the area of validating the real identity of a person believed to be a terrorist, and insurgents. It can help in assuring that people in the region are safe and peace-loving,” Hortillosa said.
He claimed there is no record of martial law abuse in the region.
But activists here have expressed their opposition to the recommendation made by Esperon.
Lawyer Beverly Musni of the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) disagreed with Hortillosa. She said another year of martial law would result in more abuses and human rights.
“This will mean the escalation of human rights violations in the countryside, already given judicial notice by the United Nations itself by way of Iceland-sponsored resolution urging the [United Nations Human Rights Council] investigation in lives lost in Duterte’s drug war,” Musni said.
She said the extension would also mean more lives would be lost “due to the neo-liberal policy of giving away large tracts of land to mining and agri-plantation ventures of the rich.
“Martial law will mean more journalists, lawyers, church people, and activists being red tagged and being readied for the ‘kill.’”
Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of the human rights monitor Karapatan, said Esperon’s recommendation is “based on fear-mongering and on the Duterte administration’s drive to quell all forms of political dissent in Mindanao and the rest of the country.”
Instead of extending it, Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop Felixberto Calang said they are calling on the government to end martial law in Mindanao to restore civil governance.
“The churches are in unison to declare that peace talks is the most viable means in addressing the root causes of the armed conflict or armed rebellion,” said Calang, who is also the main convenor of the Sowing the Seeds of Peace in Mindanao.
“War, brought about by martial rule for around two years, only escalated the level of violence and war only escalated the level of violence and decimated the democratic aspiration of the people due to fear and economic dislocation,” the clergy said.
For National Confederation of Transport Unions regional coordinator Joel Gabatan, the extension of martial law in Mindanao “is good only for [the] military so they can continue to sow fear and intimidation to the people.”